It's still a far cry from a normal Memorial Day Weekend, but some wineries in Sonoma County are reopening with restrictions.
Iconic winery Kendall Jackson reopened its doors Sunday to 50 people who had appointments. They got the green light from the county to operate under new health and safety guidelines. The requirements include limiting parties to six or fewer people and employees must maintain a six-foot distance from other employees and customers.
“We mobilized late Friday night and we were fortunate enough to be ready to go for this and we are happy everyone’s coming back,” said Kris Miller, manager of Kendall Jackson.
The biggest requirement, however, is that wineries must serve food in order to have guests. For Russian River Valley wineries like Kendall Jackson and La Crema, who regularly serve food with their pairings, this requirement is not a problem.
“We’re doing different tours, one at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.,” said Ben Fine, a wine educator at La Crema Winery. “That way, we give our staff enough time to sanitize before and after.”
But for boutique wineries like Papapietro Perry in Dry Creek Valley, the sit-down meal requirement presents an added challenge to reopening.
Since it began producing wine in a San Francisco garage in the 1980s, Papapietro Perry has focused on wine, never food. They also do not have a commercial kitchen license.
The county requirement has sent them quickly searching for new vendor partners in order to reopen the tasting room.
“Most small wineries are not restaurants and don’t have commercial kitchens,” said Renae Perry, owner of Papapietro Perry. “We don’t have the kind of health permit that allows us to cook for people, so it’s really a problem for us to work this out. I know they said we can use outside vendors, but you can’t bring a food truck when we don’t know for how many people.”
Papapietro Perry is looking to put a plan in place and reopen by next weekend. Kendall Jackson and La Crema are open for reservations under limited hours this Memorial Day Weekend and beyond.